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Hamartia and Catharsis in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Bahram Beyzaie’s Death of Yazdgerd

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King Lear (1606) is one of the political tragedies of Shakespeare in which the playwright censures Lear's hamartia wrecking havoc not only upon people's lives but bringing devastation on his own kindred. Shakespeare castigates Lear's wrath, sense of superiority, and misjudgments which lead to catastrophic consequences. In Death of Yazdgerd (1979), an anti-authoritarian play, Bahram Beyzayie, the well-known Persiaian tragedian, also depicts the hamartia of King Yazdgerd III whose pride and unjust treatment of people end in devastation. By demonstrating such defective and reprehensible tragic heroes, both playwrights set at providing audience with an anti-heroic representation of the kings and also shattering the common god-like heroism attributed to hero kings. Bearing in mind the political instability of England after the succession of James I, Shakespeare avails himself of such anti-heroic representation to forewarn those monarchs incapable of maintaining a balance between their judgments and the society's need for a genuine authority. In a similar fashion, Beyzayie narrates the true historical event of a Persian king whose improper exercise of authority, withdrawal from battle, and an ultimate escape leave people helpless against the invasion of Arabs. The article initially aims to discuss the concept of hamartia within the tragedies based on Aristotle's definition of hamartia and golden mean; by defining the nature of the kings' unforgivable errors and their extremely imbalanced temperament, the paper demonstrates how such ignoble failure relegates the hero kings to anti-heroes whose punishment equals their mistakes. Contrary to Aristotle’s idea, the article also elucidates how Shakespeare and Beyzaie have caused the audiences’ catharsis of emotion not through fear and pity but through the creation of a sense of justice by portraying characters who deserve their ultimate downfall.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 74)
M. Mirmasoomi, "Hamartia and Catharsis in Shakespeare’s King Lear and Bahram Beyzaie’s Death of Yazdgerd", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 74, pp. 16-25, 2016
Online since:
November 2016

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